Addiction to painkillers takes 91 lives a day in America

Published on: January 11, 2018

Patients who misuse the drugs often “shop” doctors to get their supplies or steal drugs from family members or friends.

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Opioid drug addiction in America is at an all-time high, and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Americans are dying at alarming numbers.

The CDC officials say the growing misuse of legally prescribed and illegally obtained opioids, including oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, morphine and synthetic drugs like fentynal is costing the country tens of billions annually in healthcare costs, addiction treatment, criminal justice expenses and lost productivity.

Highly addictive chemicals in opioids interact with nerve receptors in the brain and body to relieve pain and cause euphoria, which can lead to drug dependency, heroin use and even death, experts say.

Even when prescribed by a physician, continued use of opioids can be dangerous. When misused, they are downright deadly.

The causes can be attributed to a variety of sources.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, drug companies told doctors in the late 1990s that opioids would not cause addiction. As a result, physicians began prescribing them at higher rates, which led to millions of Americans getting hooked.

Adding to the problem is that patients often don’t tell their doctors about other physicians who prescribed these drugs. Until recently, physicians didn’t often communicate with one another about their patients and the drugs they were taking. Patients who misuse the drugs often “shop” doctors to get their supplies or steal drugs from family members or friends.

Here are some startling statistics provided by the CDC and NIH:

• Roughly 21 to 29 percent of patients taking prescribed opioid drugs misuse them.

• Of these, between 8 and 12 percent develop an addiction and dependence.

• About 80 percent of those who use heroin, first misused prescription opioids.

• In 2015, more than 90 million people received prescriptions for opioids.

• Drug overdose is the leading accidental cause of death in the United States.

• Since 1999, the number of overdose deaths involving prescription opioids and heroin has quadrupled.

• Between 2000 and 2015, more than 500,000 people have died from drug overdoses.

• More than 90 Americans die every day from opioid overdose.

There are ways to prevent misuse. The CDC recommends the following:

Create a pain management plan with your doctor and follow it. Know non-opioid options. Let the doctor know about any issues with drug abuse or dependency in your family. And make sure you understand the side effects of opioids.

Additionally, you should never take more opioids than prescribed or for longer than directed. Never share your prescriptions, and be sure to store them in a safe place, out of the reach of others. Any unused opioids should be turned in locally with no questions asked to any Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office command office or during any periodic take-back program the HCSO conducts throughout the county. The next one in Sun City Center is at Community Hall, 1910 S. Pebble Beach Blvd. from 9 a.m. to noon April 6.

Finally, don’t take opioids with alcohol or benzodiazepines, muscle relaxants or hypnotics. Always check with your doctor or pharmacist about the way any prescription or over-the-counter drug would interact with an opioid you’ve been prescribed.